Competing views on Mednow, STUSU’s online “preferred pharmacy”

    Still of the new MedNow applications that has affiliated to the St. Thomas University Student Union. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

    Update: The Aquinian posted a version on Nov. 20 that included a quote from Ahmik Burneo which could be interpreted as encouraging students to choose Mednow instead of UNB Campus Pharmacy. However, this was not his intended message. The Aquinian has since updated the article to clarify that Burneo meant to say that STUSU does not encourage choosing Mednow over UNB Campus Pharmacy. The original quote lacked context and did not accurately represent Burneo’s statement.

    On Oct. 31, St. Thomas University Student Union (STUSU) announced a partnership with the online service Mednow, referring to it on an Instagram post as the union’s “preferred pharmacy.”

    Mednow is a virtual health service that promises to benefit students with free prescription delivery, additional coverage for out-of-pocket costs and virtual support seven days a week. However, this comes to the surprise of UNB campus pharmacists Ayub Chisti.

    Chisti said he is disappointed with the decision to make Mednow the preferred pharmacy and thought someone should’ve come to him first.

    “They should have come and talked to us first, but they never did. I thought they would come and talk because [we’ve] always [had] a close relationship with them and it looks like they didn’t value our service,” said Chisti.

    Chisti was unaware of the change, but he understands that the decision has already been made. He said this will make him rethink what services he delivers for free to STU students.

    “We may start charging [STU students.] I’m not sure,” he said. “Students come in, they ask for travel vaccines and all those things that we were giving free of charge before. Now they can call the other pharmacy and pay for those services.”

    Chisti worries that an online service will be unreliable and students will experience delays getting prescriptions filled. 

    Ahmik Burneo, STUSU vice president administration, said the decision wasn’t made entirely by STUSU but guided by Campus Trust, the organization that administers health and dental benefits.

    Mostly Atlantic universities’ unions are a part of Campus Trust such as Mount Allison Students’ Union, University of Prince Edward Island Student Union and Cape Breton University Students’ Union. These universities do not have pharmacies on campus, meaning this online service would benefit students. However, STU does have a campus pharmacy. 

    “That decision was not taken mainly by STUSU. It was made by the board of trustees,” said Burneo.

    Campus Trust may administer the benefits, but a board of trustees at each university chooses what its students receive.

    Burneo said that another university recommended Mednow during a conference in June.

    “[Mednow] was going to give us the opportunity to access some extra benefits and so that’s the moment where the majority of the board of trustees decided ‘let’s go.’”

    The board, made up of trustees and students, were sold on Mednow’s benefits, but Chisti thinks Campus Pharmacy should’ve had an opportunity to be recommended by STUSU.

    “I think it’s rather childish of a university not to support local. I can’t say much because they’ve already made the decision … but they never tendered out,” said Chisti.

    Burneo said that this isn’t about selling one pharmacy over another, but giving options and as many services as possible to students.

    “[It is not as though] we are supposed to be encouraging the students to go to Mednow rather than, let’s say, UNB Campus Pharmacy. And I don’t think our job here is to sell any pharmacy [over another],” he said.

    When asked where most students buy their medications, Burneo said STUSU does not have this information, but said he would propose to include such question in an upcoming survey.  

    With files from Giuliana Grillo de Lambarri